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Loan waiver package for farmers likely: FM
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 9
The government may consider a loan waiver package to give relief to distressed farmers even as it said the new package announced last month should be given a fair trial.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram today told the Lok Sabha that the government would “carefully examine” the demand from all sides of the House to waive the loans and interest of farmers, especially in states where they had committed suicides.

“I would request all members to go to their constituencies and monitor the progress in the implementation of this package and inform me. I will take action if relief measures are not implemented,” he said during question hour. Members from all sides, including CPM’s Suresh Kurup, BJP’s V. K. Malhotra and JD(S) member M. P. Virendra Kumar, sought steps to ameliorate the condition of farmers. Many of them, they said, were forced to commit suicide mainly due to indebtedness. Mr Kurup said 91 farmers had committed suicide in Kerala’s Wayanad district some time ago.

Maintaining that he could not make any off-hand announcement on waiving loans or interest, Chidambaram said the government would “carefully examine” the demand of members if a financial package on the pattern of Andhra Pradesh could be announced for other states where farmers had committed suicides.

He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced relief measures for farmers during his recent visit to Andhra Pradesh, adding that the impact of such a waiver on the banking system would also have to be studied. The government would make efforts to institutionalise the credit taken by farmers from money-lenders, he said.

Mr Chidambaram said the June 18 announcement on agricultural credit envisaged doubling its flow in three years through steps like debt restructuring, loans for farmers indebted to non-institutional lenders and fresh credit to those whose earlier debts have been settled.

In the Rajya Sabha, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar informed the members that besides Andhra Pradesh, suicide of farmers was also reported from six other states, including Punjab, Karnataka and Rajasthan. The other states were Maharashtra, Orissa and Tripura, he said in a written reply.

He said the main causes for suicide were crop failure and indebtedness due to loans taken at a high rate of interest and drought.

Social and economic insecurity, incurable ailments, addiction to alcohol and family disputes were other reasons, Mr Pawar said.
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